As we age we can begin to lose our sense of balance. To maintain your balance various sensory and motor systems need to be in good working order. Vision is important to perceive direction and motion. The vestibular system, found in the inner ear, is required to monitor motion and provide orientation clues, such as which way is up. “Proprioception” is required, so you have the ability to sense where your body is in space. To stay steady, you also need good muscle strength and reaction time.
The good news is, that even if your balance has begun to deteriorate, there are exercises you can do that will help to build up your sense of balance! Yoga, is one of those forms of exercise.
If you find balance difficult, start easy! Begin by focusing on your breath, start with the 5 minute meditation suggested in Be Here Now! Your meditation will help to calm and center your mind. A busy mind that is flitting about from one thought to another will find it difficult to connect to a sense of balance. Then, come to a standing pose in Tadasana, Mountain Pose. Once you have found your Mountain Pose, gently and with your breath, close your eyes. Begin to sway forward and backward on your feet. If you feel you are going to fall over, simply open your eyes. As with all poses and balance poses in particular, your balance will improve as you practice.
Next, open your eyes, bring your drishti (gaze) to the floor a few feet in front of you. Keep your arms down at your sides or bring your hands to Anjali Mudra (Prayer). Quiet your mind and focus your attention on your center of gravity (usually in your low belly when standing). Bring your weight to your left foot and bend the right knee slightly, lift the right foot. Think positive thoughts, “I can do this! My balance improves with every breath I take!” Hold this balance for 10 – 15 seconds. Switch sides.
If you are worried about losing your balance stand close to a wall or a chair that you can hold on to for stability. Eventually you will want to try standing on one foot, in this same manner, with your eyes closed and work on holding the balance with eyes closed for 10 – 15 second – maybe not today, but eventually.
Two simple balance poses are Saaras Pakshi Asana (Stork Pose) and Vrksasana (Tree Pose.
To come to Saaras Pakshi Asana, begin in Tadasana. Bring your weight to your left foot, focus your drishti on the floor, several feet in front of you, breathe. Reach both arms out in front of you at shoulder height. Bending the right knee, begin to lift the right foot off the floor. Keep being your knee and lifting the foot until the bottom of your right thigh is parallel to the floor and you have a 90 degree bend in that right leg. Point the right toes down towards the ground. Hold this pose for 10 – 15 seconds. Return to Mountain Pose. Repeat on the opposite side.
To find Vrksasana, begin in Tadasana. Bring your weight to your left foot, focus your drishti on the floor, several feet in front of you, breathe. To begin and to play with your balance and figure it out. Kick stand the right foot up against the inside of your left ankle. Bring your hands to Anjali Mudra. If this feels okay for your balance, slide the
right foot up to the inside of your left calf. If your are still feeling good, use your right hand to guide your right foot up to your left inner thigh. Bring your right hand back to meet the left in Prayer, and then let your branches grow, floating your arms up above your head. Perhaps your branches sway, gently in the breeze! Hold this pose for 10 – 15 seconds. Release your right foot and bring your arms back to your sides in Mountain Pose. Repeat on the other side.
Yoga has many poses that strengthen your balance, including these two poses and Warrior III, which we began to practice in Finding Your Warrior Within. Keep working your balance. Build your strength and stability!